Furniture or Firewood

• posted on February 24, 2007, 11:44 pm
I had a tree service out to cut down a few trees yesterday and I am exploring possible uses for the lumber.
There are three basic options; 1-Furniture, 2-Firewood, 3-Outright sale.
The trees we had cut down were mostly Sycamore and one Ash. I've been told that Sycamore is not a great value as firewood or woodworking (furniture). The Ash is has value as both firewood and furniture. I'm not an expert woodworker but I think that it would be neat to build something out of the ash from my lot. The Ash up for discussion is about 32" in diameter at the base and 20" at the top. It is about 25' long, straight and clear.
The real question is - what should I do with this thing? Specifically - my research has lead me to the following pieces of information -
Volumes & Prices
o The gross volume is about 94 cubic feet (basic math) o Equals 985 board feet of furniture (~10.5 bf per cf) (Ref 1) o Equals 1.2 cords of firewood (~80 cf / cord) (Ref 2)
1) I pay about \$200 / cord for firewood. So after I cut it and split it, its worth about \$240. What would the lumber be worth for someone to come pick it up?
2) If I wanted to go the furniture route what do I need to do to the wood so that I can build something that won't tear itself apart at the joints? I have a decent table saw and basic woodworking tools. I'm thinking about building something simple like a book case for my office.
To accomplish this, I would need to dry it (?-how and ?-\$), dimension it (?-how and ?-\$) and then I could would have it to the point equivalent to buying it at a wood shop - I'm comfortable at this point!!
What do I need to do to get to that point?? What would you expect for cost??
MSR
References: (1) http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Converting_BF_to_cubic_feet.html (2) http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-533/F-9440_pod.pdf
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• posted on February 24, 2007, 11:59 pm
You forgot the most important variable.
Where is it?
wrote:

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• posted on February 25, 2007, 3:23 am

I am located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thx
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 4:02 pm

I am too. PLEASE EMAIL ME ASAP doug at milmac dot com
I WANT some of that sycamore. I can put you in touch with a sawyer who'll cut it up any way you want it, and I'll share the cost of sawing and drying in exchange for some of the wood.
What part of Indy are you in? I'm on the NW side, near Lafayette Square.
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Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 12:12 am

I wouldn't want to use sycamore in a woodstove, but it is fine for a fireplace. It is rarely used for woodworking, but there is certainly nothing wrong with it. Ash is a better firewood, but probably has less character for woodworking.
If it were me, I would burn the ash and cut up the sycamore.
Have to warn you though, preparing lumber is extremely time consuming; unless you are really set up for it. I just cut up part of a friends walnut tree and I figure I made about \$1hour. Beautiful stuff though; hardly resembles what they sell commercially. But that is just walnut; I doubt homecut ash looks any different than commercial, and ash is 1/3rd the price of walnut. On second thought, I would burn it all.
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 12:19 am

Nooooooooooooooooo! <G>
Clear ash is great for bending, trim, tobaggans, and lots of light colored furniture.
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 12:24 am
wrote:

I used ash for bookcases in my kids' rooms because it matched their fake oak furniture better than oak did; but in general it just isn't very pretty. And it is cheap to buy; at least around here.
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 12:40 am

It's almost \$4 bd/ft where I am. <G>
Hence my location question!
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 2:22 am

[Comments below assume you're in the United States, where "sycamore" means Pseudoplatanus occidentalis, the American sycamore. If you're in the UK, where "sycamore" means Acer platanoides, none of this applies, and you might as well stop reading now.]
Sycamore isn't worth a damn as firewood. The heat value is much too low, and it pops and snaps like you wouldn't believe, shooting embers everywhere. It does smell nice, though.
Flatsawn sycamore isn't worth a damn for furniture, either. It's prone to warp, and the look of the grain is just about as boring as anything you can imagine.
*Quartersawn* sycamore, on the other hand, is quite stable, and has some of the most truly spectacular grain you've ever seen. This picture doesn't even remotely begin to do justice to the flamboyant grain in these end tables I made a few years ago:
http://milmac.com/Furniture/SycamoreEndTables.JPG
Here's another example, found with Google Images:
http://www.denoon.com/images/gallery/paneling/pan_quarterSawn.jpg
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Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 4:21 am
Doug Miller wrote:

Yea, verily, Doug speaketh truth. Quartersawn sycamore can look almost like lacewood.
But I'd cut it into 8x8x3 inch chunks and turn some bowls out of it. Or sell it to turners if you're not one.
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It's turtles, all the way down

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• posted on February 25, 2007, 11:34 am
On Sun, 25 Feb 2007 02:22:39 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

It still applies in the UK, we just call the Platanus spp. "planes" instead of sycamores -- we still have them around. Much of what you said still applies, although I'd be even _more_ keen on the effort to get quartersawn wod out of it, rather than wasting it.
For the ash, why not cleave it and use it for green woodworking, either steam bending or traditional bodger's turnery ? Both of these are immediate high-waste processes compared to milling it, so you'll still produce plenty of firewood for ready use.
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 3:58 pm

Yes, but what you call "sycamore" *is* worth a damn for firewood, and for furniture whether flat- or quarter-sawn, right?
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Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 5:10 pm
On Sun, 25 Feb 2007 15:58:37 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

Not really. Sycamore isn't a common timber species here, so the ones you do see are generally poorly grown (epicormics all over the place) and only become available as one-offs from garden clearance or storm damage. Turners use it (they'll use anything) and it's OK for secondary casework where you guys in the US might use poplar. It's nothing exciting though.
I've never tried burning it, other than odd bits mixed in with general rubbish
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 11:59 am
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

1. Reduce the logs to boards. You would either have to get the logs to a mill or find a portable mill to come to you. Check the yellow pages...ask at lumber yards (not home improvement stores)...check the classified ads under the "Services" section.
I have no idea of the cost. Many portable mills are owned by people who use them to make their own lumber and I suspect they would work for a share.
2. Dry the boards. They need to be stacked with stickers (spacers - wood maybe 3/4 x 3/4) to allow for air circulation between boards. The board ends should be well sealed. The stickered pile needs to have free air flow around it but should be protected from rain and snow. It should be off the ground. Air dry for at least a year.
The alternative is to find some place that has a kiln and have them kiln dried.
3. Surface the boards when needed for use. If you don't have a surface planer you could haul them to a milling shop.
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 12:28 pm
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com says...

I _like_ to get my own timber milled, but that's me. You'll need to find somebody with a portable sawmill for that log, and a good log it sounds to be at near 1m base diameter. I've no idea what the costs are in your neck of the woods, I last payed around \$80NZ/cubic meter to have logs reduced to quartersawn 6x2. Some millers will go halves in the log, in other words you get half the lumber and they get half the lumber and you pay nothing.
Then stack it with spacers on a level base, supported at around 2' intervals, paint the ends of the boards with some old paint so the ends don't split when they dry out quicker than the middle of the boards, throw a tarp over the top and leave it for a few years (that's the hard part), before moving it into a dry warm place where it can dry out to furniture grade.
That's the catch: you need the space, you need the time, and preferably a drying loft, or a solar kiln or some such. I have lots of sheds and barns so I can move the stuff into a drying loft some weeks before I start a project.
-P.
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firstname dot lastname at gmail fullstop com
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• posted on February 25, 2007, 5:04 pm
Quarter sawn sycamore - the American version, not the euro / english "sycamore" often show interesting medullary rays (think "lacewood"). check out the lower right corner of the third image on this page.
http://web.hypersurf.com/~charlie2/TheShop/WoodStorageShelves.html
QS is the most stable type of board - and with sycamore the, boards cut any other way will likely cause you grief, both when drying as well as when using.
Note: a sawyer with a bandsaw mill probably won't want to quarter saw your logs - lot more work to QS - and wet logs are HEAVY. But a sawer with a big circular saw - that can be swung to cut vertcially then horizontally can QS pretty easily - though the max board width will be less - typically 8-10".
"Euro/English sycamore" on the other hand is actually in the maple / acer family. As noted, this stuff, when QS can have amazing "fiddle back" figure. The bare wood, when worked correctly - with VERY sharp tools - looks like a hologram flat surfaces look rippled as hell, almost folded. Stuff's hard though - like rock maple.
Problem with having it sawn up into boards is you a) have to sticker it, protect it from the elements and have the space for it while drying and b) you need to wait about 6 months to a year per inch of thickness for it to dry enough to begin milling it.
I've got a Bartlett Pear "en boule" that's been sitting on my driveway for a year already. This summer it should be ready to begin working. It started out well over 200 pounds - and that was four months after it had been sawn up.
If you can work a deal with a sawyer to have him cut it up for half the wood, and you have the space to store the wood I'd go for it. Worst case is you waste some time. Free wood is always worth a shot. Who knows, there may be a pony somewhere in that pile of horse manure.
charlie b